Deciding How to Move

You're moving! Now it's time to decide how you're going to get there. Before you start filling boxes with your belongings, consider which moving options work best for you.

So you've made the decision to pack up and put down your roots in a new place. Maybe you've found a better apartment across town or a dream job across the country. Maybe you're buying your first home or retiring to a cozy cottage in the woods. Now it's time to decide how you're going to get there. Before you start filling boxes with your belongings, consider which moving options work best for you.

  • Move consultant. If the mere sight of a cardboard box leaves you feeling overwhelmed, consider hiring someone to handle the nitty-gritty of your move. These consultants are the relocation industry's answer to wedding planners and travel agents -- they can arrange for movers, pack your stuff, switch over your utilities, and transfer school and medical records. If you can swing the price tag, or if your company is ponying up for relocation costs, a consultant can make your move relatively stress-free.

  • Moving company. A professional mover does the heavy lifting while you supervise. (For an extra fee, most companies will handle the packing, too.) Prices and reliability can vary widely between companies, so compare quotes from three local companies before hiring, and check their history with the Better Business Bureau or American Moving & Storage Association. If you're on a tight budget, you can usually get a lower rate by moving during the school year, especially mid-month.

  • Portable storage. Companies like PODS and 1-800-PACKRAT will deliver a storage unit to your door. (Make sure you have enough parking on your property to accommodate the unit.) Pack at your own pace; when you're ready to move, they'll pick it up and deliver it to your new digs. You do all the grunt work, but there are two key benefits: You can leave any excess belongings in the unit for long-term storage, and they'll hold onto the unit if there's a gap between your move-out and move-in days.

  • Rental trucks. Renting a box truck can be a cost-effective alternative to hiring a moving company -- as long as you plan ahead. A 10-foot moving truck will generally hold an apartment's worth of stuff; a 24-foot truck can accommodate a three-bedroom house. Always err on the larger side, unless the idea of playing Tetris with your dining room set appeals to you. Read the fine print about mileage allowances and fuel surcharges, and make sure your rental company has an outpost near your new home or you may be returning to your old neighborhood sooner than you think.

  • Friends and family. Free labor is fabulous, but don't plan on hauling all your furniture in your uncle's pickup. After the sixteenth trip back and forth, you may find yourself scratched off the holiday guest list. Enlist them for help with packing and loading instead, and expect to return the favor when it's their turn to move.
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